Photography by:
  • Clive Hassall

Quality of Life survey 10 year review

As the GCRO celebrates the ten-year anniversary of this Survey, we are using this opportunity to review and acknowledge what has been achieved over the past ten years, but also to focus on areas of challenge and change, and explore strategies to further strengthen the form and function of the survey for the years to come. The objective of the review is to recognise the unique character and achievements of the QoL survey over the past ten years, and to guide planning to ensure the sustainability of the survey for the next ten years. The review consists of two parts: an in-depth technical review of key aspects of survey design and implementation, and the preparation of a research report exploring the history and evolution of the survey.

Technical Review

The technical review process is internally driven, but draws on input from a range of external experts to inform our thinking around the survey. Four key focus areas have been identified:

  • Sampling and weighting
  • Survey management
  • Questionnaire design and indexing; and
  • Data use and dissemination.

For each of these areas, GCRO is convening and hosting a workshop with a small number of expert panellists, externally chaired by Dr. Tara Polzer-Ngwato, to identify and explore key challenges and areas for growth. Prof Mark Orkin has been appointed as an independent, external technical chair, to pull together thinking across these areas, and provide the GCRO with core recommendations to ensure the long-term value of the survey.

The first workshop, on sampling and weighting, was held on February 14, 2019, and was attended by several of South Africa’s foremost experts on the topic. The GCRO hosted Prof Emeritus Paul Fatti (Wits), Dr Ariane Neethling (UFS and an independent survey sampling consultant), Prof Khangelani Zuma (an executive director at the HSRC, and responsible for sampling for the South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey), Nthabiseng Makhatha (DDG of Methodology at StatsSA), and Azam Khan (Methodologist at StatsSA).

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The second workshop, on survey management, was attended by expert panellists with a range of different perspectives on this topic. Experts were Prof Reza Daniels, a co-PI of UCT’s National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS), Isabelle Schmidt, Director of Social Surveys at StatsSA, Darryn Durno, an experienced provider of data collection services for academic and non-profit research projects, and Martin Bekker, who has been responsible for contracting service providers for large-scale survey projects for the Royal Bafokeng Nation.

The third workshop, on questionnaire use and indexing, was held on 5 June 2019. This workshop focussed on both the composition of the QoL questionniare itself, but also on how survey results might best be distilled into an overall index measure of quality of life. The experts in attendence where Dr Benjamin Roberts (Research Specialist at the HSRC, and responsible for running their annual South African Social Attitudes Survey), Mr Niel Roux (Director of General Household Survey at StatsSA), Prof Talita Greyling (an expert on quality of life measurement and indexing at UJ), and Prof Paul Fatti (Emeritus, Wits University Department of Statistics).


A final, fourth workshop, focusing on QoL data use and dissemination was held on November 6, 2019 at the GCRO offices. This workshop was held outside of the formal technical review process, but was strongly influenced by the review process and learnings. The workshop was facilitated by Dr Alexandra Parker of the GCRO, who also presented an overview of Expert panelists included Mr Richard Gevers (Open Cities Lab), Ms Lynn Woolfrey (DataFirst, UCT), Ms Laura Grant & Mr Alastair Otter (MediaHack), Ms Shirona Patel (Head of Communications, University of the Witwatersrand), Prof Ruth Stewart (Africa Centre for Evidence, University of Johannesburg), Dr Carla Washbourne (University College London), and Dr Kim Ingle (South African Labour and Development Research Unit, UCT). The workshop was well-attended by colleagues from within the GCRO, other local universities, and both local and provincial government. Workshop proceedings, together with recommendations for the GCRO, are available in the workshop report, prepared by Dr Carla Washbourne, and available here.


All four workshops provided robust discussion and debate, and an opportunity to explore critical questions from a variety of viewpoints. While identifying areas in which the GCRO can strengthen QoL moving forwards, they have also all uniformly highlighted and validated the quality and importance of the QoL survey. A synthesis report, by Prof Mark Orkin, will be presented to the GCRO board together with Dr Washbourne’s recommendations.

Research Report

The Ten Years of QoL research report is planned for release in late 2020.

Last updated: 29 April 2020.


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